Tuesday 2 July 2024

Pangbourne to Sutton Courtenay. River Thames.

Summer ‘24 finally arrived while we were moored at Pangbourne, and boy, did we all know about it. The temperatures rocketed up - along with the humidity - as we were treated to a mini heat wave. After waiting so long for it to happen no-one complained, well not on the first day anyway, but we’re British after all and after two days of sweltering heat, the cracks began to show.

On the first morning, while Dave started work on the skip-dived flooring boards, converting them into plinth covers...

The doors to our larders.

It's amazing how much extra storage there is behind the kitchen plinths.

...Ann-Marie went out for a run up the Thames path towards Mapledurham lock. She only got about half way before the heat got too much and she had to walk back.

The Thames Path on the way back from Mapledurham lock.

After a big breakfast, we carried on the process of clearing, cleaning and packing our belongings. Preparing for such a huge life change is so emotional - exciting and sad at the same time - this little tin box has been our life for longer than anywhere else and we are so going to miss it. But more than that, we’re going to miss this amazing Voyage of Adventure that it has given us. You know, Dear Reader. You’ve been here with us.

The next morning Dave tried to cheat the heat, and went off running just after dawn. It was indeed cooler, but with that came a heavy dew and before long the soggy socks and trainers from the knee-high grass got the better of him and he had to give up as well.

With sunhats, water bottles and plenty of factor 50 on the back deck, we pulled the pins from our little hidey hole and continued upstream...

Leaving our perfectly Legend sized mooring at Pangbourne. 

...through Whitchurch lock and on up to Goring where we moored up in a nice shady spot under the trees.

Dave got out onto the front of the boat, undercoating the bottom of the cratch board and putting a coat of Aquasteel primer on the top of the bow. 

Meanwhile, Ann-Marie re-potted our prodigal tomato plants into our round tubs. They are the great great grandchildren of the original cherry bush plant that we got in Wallingford during Covid. There are ten of them this year and if they’re anything like their parents they will be prolific. Goodness knows what we’re going to do with all the little toms when they ripen.

In the evening we had a lovely walk across Goring bridge and up through Streatly to Lardon Chase. It was a steep climb, but totally worth it. The plateau at the top was glorious with so many butterflies and wild flowers, including Pyramid Orchids, which we’d not seen before.

Goring lock and weir from the bridge.

Lardon Chase, a National Trust nature reserve on the top of the hill opposite Goring.

There's a beautiful wild flower meadow up there.

And fabulous views out over South Oxfordshire.

Google lens told us that this beautiful little wild orchid is a Pyramid Orchid.

The next morning we had another early kick off, partly to avoid the the heat, but mainly because we wanted to get to Wallingford during the 11am - 2pm sweet spot when there would be somewhere to moor. When we got to Cleeve lock we found it empty, but with only one bottom gate open; a sure sign that the power had failed. When that happens you have to use the big wheel to manually wind the gates and paddles, which is really tiring and makes your arms ache. Happily, we only had to wind the bottom gates and paddles; by the time we’d got Legend in and up, the lock keeper had arrived and restored the power, so Ann-Marie could go back to pushing buttons.

When we got to Wallingford Colin and Julia were waiting for us on the quayside and we moored up in exactly the same place as we were in the floods and the ensuing lockdown in 2019/20.

Approaching Wallingford Bridge.

It's like we never left.

A very familiar view of the mighty Thames, although the last time we were here it was going past our poor little boat in a raging torrent.

After having Mv Smith’s Lady moored behind Legend for months back then, C&J finally came aboard our little boat for the first time. We sat under the shade of the willows and had coffee before walking up to their beautiful house for lunch. On our way back to the boat across the meadows we noticed a pair of glasses that someone had left on a kissing gate post. Julia had told us that she’d lost hers on the meadow a few days earlier, and despite looking for hours had failed to find them. We knew straight away that these were them, they were purple and Julia-shaped.

They walked Rosie down to the boat that evening to collect them, and we sat on the river back drinking wine and celebrating not only our return to Wonderful, Wonderful Wallingford, but also Julia being able to see again.

We set off the next morning along the bit of waterway that we probably know better than anywhere else in the country. When we were moored there - first during the floods and then during lockdown - we’d walked up to Benson lock for water nearly every day for seven months, so it was all very familiar and we  felt like we’d come home.

Not a lot had changed in six years, but the painting on this pill box was new.

At Benson there was a lot of work going on. The floods had not only created a big shoal below the lock, but also filled the sluice gates on the weir with all manor of debris, including what looked like a small bridge! 

We said hello to Kate, the lock keeper who’d looked after us while we were stranded, and - sad muppets that we are - waved goodbye to ‘our’ tap.

The tap we brought our water bottles up to every day.

Even the next bit through Shillingford and up to Day’s lock was very much part of our old stomping ground, and we got all that mixed emotion stuff going on again; lovely to be there reminiscing, but also saying goodbye.

Goodbye Benson Marina and very nice café.

Quick stop for services just before Day's Lock

Next up were Clifton and Culham locks. The stretch between these two is nearly always the last to come down from red boards. We’re not sure why that is; it might be the reduced headroom at the bridge over Clifton cut, it could be that the river is noticeably narrower up here so the flow is stronger, or maybe it’s something to do with the very posh houses that line the river at Burcot, below Clifton lock. Whatever the reason, there had been no proper rain or stream warnings on the whole of the Thames for weeks and we had a very nice - if somewhat breezy - cruise up to Culham.

Diverting into the lock channel at Clifton

Photographs don't often show the wind, but this willow tree gives you a good idea.

Penning up at Culham, our last lock for a while.

 At the end of the lock channel above Culham we turned left, off the main navigation, past the big ‘DANGER’ sign and onto the bottom end of Culham Reach.

Culham lock channel.

There were several rowing boats and a fisherman in a little rib milling around the junction, but after all the regattas we’d got tangled up in, we took all that with a pinch of salt and pootled down to Steve and Annemarie’s little piece of paradise on the riverbank. As we drew close we saw that there was half a big ash tree that had come down in the middle of their campsite.
Culham reach, heading for our mooring.

Luckily, that big Ash just missed a tent.

Steve and Annemarie's little piece of paradise.

After we’d tied up on the outside of one of their hire boats and had a lovely re-union with lots of hugs we sat down with a celebratory glass of wine and they told us that the tree had come down in the night a couple of days previously, luckily missing the nearest bell tent. There were concerns about the remaining half which was leaning a bit and was hollow at the bottom just like the fallen one; another victim of Ash Die-back disease.

We’re going to be here for - we reckon at the moment - about seven weeks. During that time, we’ll do all the outstanding jobs on Legend and get it ready to sell. We’ll also pack as much of our stuff that we can possibly live without into the van, ready to ship out to Ireland. The car is due an MOT while were here, and there’s a few things that Steve and Annemarie need our help with; processing and clearing up the fallen bough, building rafts and safely dropping the other half of the tree for a start, so it’s going to be a busy summer.

Legend's home for the summer.

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Pangbourne to Sutton Courtenay. River Thames.

Summer ‘24 finally arrived while we were moored at Pangbourne, and boy, did we all know about it. The temperatures rocketed up - along with ...